×

Film Review: ‘An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn’

Big comedy stars enlisted in oddball Jim Hosking's follow-up to "The Greasy Strangler" — but audiences must have a high tolerance for kooks.

Director:
Jim Hosking
With:
Aubrey Plaza, Emile Hirsch, Jemaine Clement, Matt Berry, Craig Robinson.

1 hour 48 minutes

There’s a lie in the title of Jim Hosking’s “An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn.” To see what mysterious magic Craig Robinson’s non-verbal Beverly holds over his sold-out crowds, unhappy wife Lulu Danger (Aubrey Plaza) must spend several evenings at this strange small-town hotel dodging her husband Shane (Emile Hirsch) and the advances of a naïve gunman, Colin (Jemaine Clement), who’s helped her run off with her brother Adjay’s (Sam Dissanayake) cash. She’s miserable, but whether audiences will enjoy the wait depends on their appreciation for Hosking’s synthetic style where all the clothes are bad, all the characters are dingbats, and every scene is cluttered with snort-worthy absurdism.

Since his 2016 debut “The Greasy Strangler,” Hosking has specialized in terrariums of kooks. His brain works methodically. He’s no sloppy absurdist throwing whatever at the screen to see what sticks. Instead, Hosking gives rhythm to the madness. In “Greasy Strangler,” the back-beat was a repeated sequence where the Crisco-covered killer Big Ronnie strips nude and walks through a car wash. There’s a glimpse of a wild-haired man who could be Big Ronnie in the back of the coffee shop where Lulu makes cappuccinos until her boss and spouse Shane fires her in favor of dimwits Carl (Sky Elobar) and Tyrone (Zach Cherry). But in a Hosking film, every character — even the extras — is at once bizarrely unique and part of a clan.

A Hosking character doesn’t just walk into a room. They move like stop-motion figures covered in human skin. Nothing is natural. The film’s been edited to make audiences off-balance. Either characters appear as soon as they’ve been summoned, or the camera holds as a conversation gets interrupted by a coughing fit — twice. And the eclectic musical backdrop veers from choral hymns to cold synths to retro ballads to thudding drums, each song fitting the exact scene they’re in without worrying if it matches the rest.

Other tics include dialogue barked with the blunt gravity of NASA engineers averting disaster, and actors gamely making themselves as repellent as possible. If there’s a nose that can be reddened or a bare chest that could bristle with hairs, it’s on display. Hirsch’s overbearing husband hunches his shoulders to look even shorter than 5-foot-7 and juts out his chin like a cartoon of Dick Tracy. Clement, no stranger to moth-eaten wigs, might make a living as a wandering brute, but when he tells Lulu he’s a virgin, it’s believable.

The exception is Plaza’s Lulu, who looks like an ’80s skate rink princess in her soft curls and mutton-chop sweaters. She’s the first Hosking character treated with wall-to-wall empathy, and when she gazes at Robinson’s barrel-chested mute in his Peter Pan collar, plaid Scottish breeches and pom-pom-topped Balmoral bonnet, Plaza is somehow channeling real love. From her heartsick wife, drops of recognizable human emotion trickle down to splash other characters, especially Clement’s bumbling not-so-bad guy who can’t catch a break.

Hosking has a vision, and more often that not, it works. Strip away the madness and the script, co-written with David Wike, is a standard riff on oddballs-on-the-run flicks like “True Romance.” Except “Beverly Luff Linn” still doesn’t function like a film that believes in arcs. It takes the shape of a tightrope stunt. The thrill isn’t whether characters will change, it’s whether the actors will be able to sustain the humor. Mostly, they do, though the energy slumps just before the climax. If Hosking isn’t your tempo, you’re probably in the majority. But those who delight in championing the next cult film leader will nod along with Clement when he grins, “Although I don’t know what what’s going on here, I’m having a great time.”

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (NEXT), Jan. 26, 2018. Running time: 108 MIN.

Production: A Film4, BFI presentation of a Park Pictures, Rook Films, Wigwam Films production, in association with GPS Film Partners. (International sales: UTA, Los Angeles/Protagonist Pictures, London.) Producers: Sam Bisbee, Theodora Dunlap, Oliver Roskill, Emily Leo, Lucan Toh. Andrew Starke. Executive producers: Lance Acord, Daniel Battsek, Jackie Kelman Bisbee, Mary Burke, Robert Farrior, Richard Garber, David Gordon Green, Jim Hosking, Sam Lavender, Gregory P. Shockro, David Wike.

Crew: Director: Jim Hosking. Screenwriters: Hosking, David Wike. Camera (color): Nanu Segal. Editors: Mark Burnett, Nick Emerson. Music: Andrew Hung.

With: Aubrey Plaza, Emile Hirsch, Jemaine Clement, Matt Berry, Craig Robinson.

More Film

  • Box Office Mojo new

    Box Office Mojo Site Transformed by IMDbPro

    BoxOfficeMojo.com has been transformed into an IMDbPro site, losing some of its free features. The Amazon-owned site, which had previously operated free of charge, was given a new look with its header reading “Box Office Mojo by IMDb Pro.” Information such as breakdowns by genre is now only available behind the IMDbPro paywall. The Box [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Hocus Pocus' Sequel in Development at Disney Plus

    Disney Plus has launched development of a sequel to 1993’s fantasy comedy “Hocus Pocus” with “Workaholics” writer and co-producer Jen D’Angelo on board to script. The original “Hocus Pocus” starred Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as a trio of witch sisters who have been cursed since 1693 in Salem, Ma. The witches [...]

  • Lady Gaga

    Variety Wins 2019 Eppy Award for Best Digital Magazine

    Variety has won two Eppy Awards from Editor & Publisher, including Best Digital Magazine and Best Collaborative Investigative/Enterprise Feature for “American (In)Justice” — a collaboration with fellow PMC property Rolling Stone. “American (In)Justice” also tied with USA Today’s “Copy, Paste, Legislate” collaboration with The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity. Variety has provided [...]

  • Joker Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

    Box Office: Villains Face Off Again as 'Joker' and 'Maleficent' Battle for First Place

    Despite three new nationwide releases, domestic box office charts look to be dominated by holdovers — Warner Bros.’ “Joker” and Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” — during the last weekend in October. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” debuted last weekend with $36 million in North America, enough to dethrone “Joker” after the super-villain origin story’s back-to-back [...]

  • Yasushi Shiina

    Tokyo Market is Finding New Strengths, Says Yasushi Shiina

    Clouds on the global economic horizon and disruption to the scheduling of the event, have done little to dampen the interest of foreign visitors to TIFFCOM, Japan’s biggest film and TV market. Especially those from China, says market head, Yasushi Shiina. The market is again running at the Sunshine City shopping, entertainment and business complex [...]

  • "Weathering With You" directed by Makoto

    Toho Unveils Dual Media Romance 'Love Me, Love Me Not' at Tokyo Market

    Japan’s biggest film company, which produces, distributes and exhibits its own product in partnership with leading media companies, Toho has brought a line-up to TIFFCOM full of present and future hits. The biggest is “Weathering with You,” the love story animation by Makoto Shinkai that surpassed the $100 million mark only a month after its [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content